KU News Release


April 14, 2011
Contact: Lauren Beatty, University Relations, 785-864-8856

KU freshman to retrace route of Freedom Riders

LAWRENCE — A student from the University of Kansas has been chosen to participate in 2011 Student Freedom Ride.

William Dale, a freshman from Topeka, was one of 40 students from around the country selected from 1,000 applicants to participate in the ride, which is being organized by the PBS series “American Experience.”

Students will retrace the route of the original Freedom Rides, which took place 50 years ago in May 1961, when more than 400 black and white Americans took public transportation to challenge segregation laws in the South.

From May 6 to 16, the students will travel by bus from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans. Along the way, they will stop at historically significant locations and share ideas about civic engagement and social change. Stops include Atlanta’s Morehouse College with original Freedom Rider Bernard Lafayette; a ribbon cutting at the Anniston (Ala.) Bus Station, where one of the buses was firebombed in 1961; and Vanderbilt University’s First Amendment Center. Events also will take place at the historic First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., where the original Freedom Riders, along with Martin Luther King Jr. and 1,500 others, were trapped by a mob until federal marshals were summoned. The Student Freedom Ride will end in New Orleans with a rally to welcome the students and the original Freedom Riders.

Dale, majoring in English and American studies, said he is most looking forward to meeting the other students and discussing community development and education reform with them, especially because he is one of the younger participants chosen.

“It’s really a perfect fit for me and my interests,” he said.

Students were selected on the basis of their essays on their reasons for wanting to participate, their thoughts on the role of social media and technology in civic engagement and their extracurricular activities.

Dale found out he was selected in early March. There was a slight mixup with the email notifying him of his selection — Dale never received it. But once the confusion was cleared up, Dale, who was at a friend’s house when he got the news, says he was thrilled.

“I think we both jumped up and down,” he said. “Actually, she jumped up and down and I was in a state of disbelief.”

Dale is president of the freshman class and co-director of Concerned Active and Aware Students, a student organization affiliated with KU’s Center for Community Outreach. He participated in an Alternative Break this spring, working with a Teach for America school in Chicago. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Dale hopes to attend law school or graduate school. His ultimate goal is to work with a nonprofit organization in education reform.

Dale is the son of Bud and Diane Dale of Topeka. He is a graduate of Topeka High School.

Additionally, the Dole Institute of Politics at KU will host an exhibit about the Freedom Riders from July 21 to Aug. 12. Organized by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and “American Experience,” the exhibit combines powerful photography and news coverage of the Freedom Rides, as well as firsthand audio accounts of the fight for civil rights.

Follow the 2011 Student Freedom Ride on Twitter at @FreedomRidePBS or on Facebook.


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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